HOTSPOT – Resource hotspots and the role of apex predators in terrestrial ecosystems
HOTSPOT studies the interactions between herbivores and their plant resources and the factors that modify the strength of these interactions, specifically predation risk by apex predators. It follows a comparative approach and studies consumer-resource interactions in African savannas and Swedish temperate and boreal forests.
In Sweden, we will perform observational and experimental studies to test how the resource-richness of the environment and selectivity of the herbivore influence the strength and nature (positive or negative) of herbivore-resource interactions. Hence, we will gain insight in drivers of spatial variation in browsing intensity and how this might influence plant community compositions.
In Africa, the project supports a PhD student at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University to examine the impact of predation risk on savanna ecosystem functioning. The effect of mammalian carnivores on ecosystem functioning, through their effects on behavior of their prey, is now strongly debated. We will quantify predation risk landscapes created by different types of carnivores (lion, wild dog and cheetah) in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, measure herbivore behavioural response across these landscapes and link this behavioural response to vegetation and nutrient dynamics.
This project is financed by the European Union as a FP7 Marie Curie Career Integration Grant.